Rescued By a Lady's Love (Lords of Honor, #3)(7)

By: Christi Caldwell

“Have I not told you, I’m not to be disturbed?” Especially not with notes from boyhood friends.

“Yes, Y-your Grace.” The silver tray trembled in his hands. “I would not disturb you unless—”

“Have I not instructed you to direct all matters of business to my man-of-affairs?” He jerked his chin at the tray. “And not to bother me with those damned notes?”

The butler looked down at the ivory velum in his care and blinked several times. “Uh, y-yes, Your Grace.” He hastily set the note on a veneered wood side table, as he always did, and pulled the tray against his chest. As he also always did. “But you see—” Drawing a deep breath, the man let his words out on a swift exhale. “Mr. Davies has arrived,” he finished on a rush.

His man-of-affairs. Rather, his dead brother’s man-of-affairs. “He can go to the devil and you can join him, Harrison,” he hissed. “Now, get out.”

Harris’ cheeks went ashen. He hesitated and his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. The servant looked over his shoulder and then back to Derek.

He narrowed his eye. “You showed him here anyway, did you, Harrison?”

The remaining color fled his butler’s cheeks. “I-I—”

“I should sack you,” he seethed, climbing slowly to his feet. And he would toss the insolent servant on his bloody arse if he were in a mind to have Davies search out another who’d brave The Beast of Blackthorne’s lair.

“Y-yes.” Then with a remarkable show of courage the young servant asked, “So I may show him in, then?”

And if Derek hadn’t ceased laughing a lifetime ago, he’d have at least managed a smile born of mirth at the man’s temerity. Then, he didn’t think the muscles of his scarred and burned face could manage the appropriate movement anymore. “Show him in,” he said on a steely whisper.

Mr. Davies, a white-haired man of indiscriminate years stepped around Harris, his arms laden with folios. “Your G-Grace.” He dropped a bow, but not before revulsion flashed in his eyes.

Derek peeled his lip back in a sneer. When he’d returned to England from the Battle of Toulouse, the left side of his face ravaged by burns, those appalled looks and horrified whispers had gutted him. Somewhere along the way, he’d become mercifully deadened to that revulsion.

Harris took his leave and pulled the door closed with a soft click. Derek grabbed his serpent-headed cane and, with the aid of that mortifying crutch, he awkwardly lurched across the room. “What the hell do you want?” He infused a deathly edge to that whisper. He cast a glance at Davies.

The books tumbled from his arms and hit the hardwood floor with a loud thump. “It is about your sister, Lady Stonehaven, Y-Your Grace.”

Derek’s useless left leg dragged and he stumbled. He righted himself with the use of his cane. “My sister?” His words came as though down a long corridor.

“Y-yes, Your Grace.” The sounds of rustling papers filled the room while Davies tidied his documents.

Derek stood frozen, his gaze fixed on the garish, crimson wallpaper—the color of blood. His heart thundered loudly and he longed to spin on his heel and shake some bloody urgency from the other man. As he, who’d given up on hope long ago, felt it flicker to life from a place deep inside he’d believed long dead. His sister, Edeline. “And has she been located?” At the stretch of silence, he shot a look over his shoulder.

The floorboards creaked as Davies climbed to his feet. “Found?” Thick befuddlement coated that word. “Uh, no, Your G-Grace.”

That matter-of-fact deliverance spoke volumes, quashed all fledgling hope, and promptly restored Derek to the coolly logical beast who didn’t believe in fairytales of hope and happiness. “Then what the hell do you want?” They met precisely the same time each week. There were no additional meetings. “I’d specifically told you I wouldn’t give a bloody damn if the world was ending on Sunday; I don’t expect your presence here that day.”

“Y-yes. Very well, Your Grace. Indeed, I know that.” Davies shifted back and forth on his feet with an ease and grace Derek despised.

What sorry days, indeed, when he should envy a man that slight pathetic movement with unbroken legs. With a growl, he lurched the remainder of the way to his sideboard and slammed down his cane.

“It is Lady Flora.”

He paused, his hand poised over the crystal decanters. Flora? Derek furrowed his brow and tried to make sense of the name and, more importantly, why it should mean something. People didn’t matter to him. They saw him as the scarred, horrific beast he was and he preferred life that way. Though, not everyone saw you as only a beast. An unexpected pain ripped through him.